Brace yourselves

Neil Manthorp – 06/11/2002

Rugby’s current bout of infighting concerning the reshaping of the Currie Cup may not seem relevant to cricket supporters but the more astute among you will watch, listen and learn because cricket is heading for even more sensitive and potentially divisive times.

Both sports want their premier domestic competitions to return to a strength vs strength format. In fact, both sports have been told by strategic business consultants that they must do that in order to survive financially and compete internationally.

Rugby’s affiliates decided to return to a six team Currie Cup but now that the reality is upon the eight lesser teams they appear to have changed their minds and are fighting for what they call their ‘survival’. They don’t know how lucky they are.

Cricket will take a far more radical decision in the coming weeks and it will involve four provinces losing their first class status and much of their identity.

If the proposal from the newly formed SA Cricket PTY ltd is ratified by the executive committee, as seems certain, then next year’s SuperSport Series will be contested by just seven teams with four becoming essentially amateur unions feeding their bigger cousins.

No wonder everyone outside Benoni is feeling awkward and embarrassed about Easterns becoming SuperSport Series champions this year. Still, at least Northerns will be a hell of a team next season! Shame about the prospects of Gauteng and North West. It’s going to be an extremely emotional time when hot-headedness will be easy but painfully destructive.

One fundamental truth must be remembered. South African cricket cannot sustain 11 provincial teams and 215 contracted players. Hard decisions had to be taken, but it will take strong leaders to steer the South African game through the next two or three years. Brace yourselves.

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